Saturday, April 14, 2012

On Losing My Marbles

I am in the midst of a many-years-long quest to “find myself.”

Tongue in cheek, you may ask, “Were you lost?”

After a series of confusing, painful and disheartening experiences in my adult life I did, in fact, lose myself. It’s a natural consequence of simply trying to survive.

Now I’m correcting my course. I have been diligently gathering up the pieces of myself that I abandoned or neglected.

That process has been a lot like gathering up marbles.

My marbles—the different facets of my personality, and my deepest hopes, desires, passions, dreams, fears, and disappointments that make up the uniqueness of “me”—were spread all over the metaphorical floor of my inner life.

They were hiding under couches and coffee tables, kicked into corners, wrapped up in dust bunnies and lurking in the shadows, as lost marbles are so apt to do.

But I have been painstakingly searching each one out, cleaning it off, taking inventory of what I find, and sizing up what I am made of.

Because this has been such an arduous process, I am learning to value every marble in my bag—the shiny ones, the dull ones, the chipped ones, and even the ugly ones.

I am also growing more careful about who gets to see, touch and handle my marbles. I am learning to guard them and treat them in a way that honors their worth.

But every so often my precious bag of marbles that I want to store safely in my private emotional realm comes spilling out into reality.

Because sometimes, no matter how much work I’ve done, I let my guard down. I get a little too laissez-faire. I loosen my grip on my bag. I kick up my feet and throw back my head. To say it plainly, I relax my boundaries--the very boundaries that have enabled me to regain what was lost--and I lose my marbles. Again.

All those marbles that I have kept carefully hidden, managed and accounted for, come spilling out around me.

If you’ve ever lost your (literal) marbles, you know what I’m talking about. You know that they don’t just fall into a neat little pile at your feet. Falling marbles bounce and they roll, picking up velocity as they travel far, far away from you. They scatter quickly, usually in many different directions.

And this is precisely how it feels when I lose my marbles emotionally.

Losing any kind of marbles can be a real mess.

In the first moments after the marble spillage, I stand there in the wreckage, surveying the damage. It is not uncommon for me to feel paralyzed and overwhelmed.

But at some point—hopefully soon after—I know what I must do. I have to begin the process of gathering up the parts of me that came crashing and bounding out. No matter how far they’ve crashed and bounded away.

I have to remind myself that I’ve done this before, and it’s never as hard as it was the first time.

So I begin.

Sometimes the frustration, disillusionment and embarrassment of not "holding it together" can leave me exhausted. Though I know that I will feel better once those marbles are tidily stored back in their bag, I often lack energy for the full re-gathering.

That’s when I know I have to ask for help. In the same way that my son calls "Help, Mama" across the house when--in his frenzy of creativity and play--he has messy-ed his room to the point of ridiculousness, I often need to enlist trusted friends to assist me in cleaning up my ridiculous mess.

Sometimes I need my community--my tribe--to get down on their hands and knees and look under tables and chairs with me. I need them to sweep floors and move furniture. I need them to be another set of eyes—to help me see what I can’t see.

I need them to help me get my marbles back.

There is a point in the retrieving process where every one realizes that, despite our searching, a few marbles are still missing but it's time to call it a day.

When I'm left alone again I can't help but feeling that pit in my stomach, the angst of unfinished business. That's when I have to be my own best friend.

I have to look myself in the mirror and with quiet assurance speak the words I tell my son when he's lost a favorite toy he cannot seem to find: "Don't worry, dear one. It'll show up somewhere. And probably when you're least expecting to find it."

And you know what? That's always true. I always find the missing marbles. And I end up appreciating them that much more for having been lost.

Let's be honest. We all lose our marbles sometimes. But really what matters is that we keep picking them back up.


  1. Such a good reminder. Also, it reminds me of when Ellie is overwhelmed by the mess of her room that I tell her, "just one thing at a time". It's good for me to remember as well. One thing at a time, and before you know it, what seemed impossible to clean up is all done. Love you!

  2. Marble by marble. And then it's done. ;)

  3. love this. the process, while hard, brings you to new places with each marble you place back into your bag. because like the scattering out, they never go in the same way twice...bringing you new depths and new delights.

    1. It is lovely to have your insight and kindness here, Tara. Next time I'm re-gathering, I'm going to try to remember that searching out my marbles is an opportunity to uncover something *new*. New is good. And hard. But good.

  4. “We were fascinated by the little glass spheres, by those dark waves of color, some narrow and drawn out into several swirls, and others that widened out in the center of the marble into a single bundle and thinned out smoothly at the ends. There were reddish streaks in Añuco's new marbles, but in the cloudy, chipped ones the bands of color also appeared, strangely and inexplicably.”
    ― José María Arguedas, Los ríos profundos

    here's to the all the cloudy and chipped marbles inside...still full of so much strange and inexplicable color.

    great picture, lovey!

    1. I don't know how you do it, but you always seem to find these gems for me. What a brilliantly perfect quote. Thank you. You add so much color to my life.

  5. Ang...your writing is beautiful, touching, and inspiring. And girl....we all lose our marbles sometimes....lots of times...I'm sure some of mine are still stuck way under the couch. :) Love you!